Picking up two points versus the Islanders before Kadri and Bozak return with Predators, Capitals and Blue Jackets on the docket could set the Leafs up nicely for the rest of November. The Leafs need to accumulate some points before they embark on a December from hell.
With the likes of Trevor Smith, Jay McClement and Jerred Smithson playing elevated minutes at center, the Leafs have been forced to try to grind out goals and generate more in-zone offense with less of their usual rush attack exploits. It’s been a struggle to score, but the goaltending has remained steadily excellent and the Leafs have been trudging along while splitting the points.
The Islanders lost goaltender Evgeni Nabokov to the injured reserve after he injured his groin in the first period of a 5-4 shootout win over the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday. Backup Kevin Poulin finished out the game in that high-scoring affair and is expected to start tonight. Poulin had already been getting a growing share of the starts over the struggling Nabokov. He is 3-5-0 with a .909 save percentage.
The Islanders have also been without prized new acquisition Thomas Vanek, who is day to day with an upper body injury. John Tavares has not missed a beat without previous running mate Matt Moulson, riding into tonight’s game on a five-game streak that includes eight points. Tavares has feasted on the Leafs in his last three visits to the ACC, with eight points over his last three trips to Toronto.
The Islanders haven’t built on their playoff appearance last season in the early stages of 2013-14. There are some young offensive weapons on this team, but it’s a weak club defensively that hasn’t benefited from the same strength in goaltending as last year. Frans Nielsen, John Tavares and Kyle Okposo have all hit the 20-point plateau already through 21 games; after those three, with Vanek hurt, the Isles’ scoring trails off quickly. Expect Lupul – Smith – Clarkson to take on the brunt of the Tavares/Okposo matchup.
The Leafs allowed 16 goals against in their three meetings with the Islanders last season while losing two of three. One assumes Reimer keeps the net having won on Saturday, but he doesn’t have a good history against New York. Could go either way.
While they have had a hard time shutting down Tavares and company, the Leafs do hold a significant edge in goaltending and special teams going into this contest. While the Leafs have dropped down into the middle of the pack in goals per game after scoring just four goals over five games before putting four by Jhonas Enroth on Saturday, their powerplay has moved up to third in the league and will line up against the worst penalty kill in the NHL.
The lineup for the Leafs will likely remain the same outside of Morgan Rielly stepping in for the banged-up Mark Fraser.
|Head to Head:||Leafs||Islanders|
|GF/G||2.75 (14th)||2.76 (12th)|
|GA/G||2.30 (9th)||3.14 (27th)|
|SF/G||26.5 (28th)||30.3 (14th)|
|SA/G||35.8 (28th)||30.0 (14th)|
|PP||23.5% (3rd)||18.9% (17th)|
|PK||83.5% (11th)||72.3% (30th)|
|5 on 5 F/A||1.14 (9th)||0.91 (21st)|
|Sh%||10.3% (4th)||9.1% (13th)|
|Sv%||93.6% (2nd)||89.5% (27th)|
|FO%||46.7% (25th)||45.1% (29th)|
|Goalie H2H||Record||SV%||GAA||SO||EV SV%||PK SV%|
|Left Wing||Center||Right Wing|
|Left Defense||Right Defense|
Maple Leaf Hangout Episode #12 for your Game Day: